A few thoughts on Tim Cartmell’s “Effortless Combat Throws”

June 1st, 2012

If you’ve read the AOV, you will know that the book lists six basic principles of virtuosity. These principles are universal principles of performance, central to everything we do.

At the end of the book, I described specific ways of achieving power, speed, and precision, utilizing what I call virtuoso reality principles.

One of the things I like to do is to read up on books by experts in other fields, mostly books by real practitioners, as opposed to those by theoreticians and armchair experts, to see if there’re any correlations, any confluences of ideas, or whether I’ve missed an essential point.

So far, I’m glad to say that everything I’ve read up to this point supports the basic ideas in the AOV.

And I was not disappointed by Tim Cartmell’s book.

Mr. Cartmell reminds me of two other great American martial arts exponents, Peter Ralston and Bruce Frantzis. All three followed their passion and went to live in China or Taiwan at one time or another to perfect the mastery of their art. And all three gentlemen turn out to be prolific writers and we’re all the better for it.

Back to Mr. Cartmell.

The book is in three huge chapters, basically three main sections.

The first chapter describes the different types of throws and basic principles relating to them. The second is about body use, and the third chapter goes into the actual mechanics of the throws.

Naturally, I’m drawn only to the second chapter ‘Body Use.’

Although written in greater technical detail and in more technical language, the ideas do not differ significantly from the AOV. In fact many sections support the AOV.

For example, here’s a short excerpt from the section titled ‘ Principle Four: Generate Power Through Stretch/Rebound and Rotation.’

“There are basically two ways to generate power without using tension or effort: the first is to allow an external, compressive pressure (to) stretch the muscle and connective tissue, storing energy which will cause the tissue to rebound or “snap back,” creating a pulse of force; the second is to allow the limbs and torso to rotate or swing like pendulums, generating centripetal/centrifugal force.”

One of the central themes of the AOV is to generate power through the release of tension rather than through its exertion. And the way to achieve that involves exactly the same process that Mr. Cartmell describes.

For example, in plucking strings, when your fingertip meets the string, allow it to flex or give slightly. Here, the string is the external pressure that is acting on the fingertip, stretching it, and making it flex back. And then, to generate the power, release the finger in an instantaneous action.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Cartmell uses the word ‘snap’ to describe the release of energy. This is the same word I use to describe the snapping action when we release the finger from the string.

However, I do differ with him on one point, but this is a small point concerning an analogy rather than a basic fundamental principle.

On page 41, he mentions that “Correct muscle tone is neither limp nor rigid, a coiled noodle will not snap back.”

But a coiled noodle is very different from a relaxed finger. The relaxed finger may be and should be limp when relaxed, but it is not a lifeless inanimate object like a noodle. It is capable of snapping back at any time and exerting pressure and force.

This is the same error of analogy that another author made. He said that plucking the string with a relaxed tip joint is like trying to play with a paintbrush. The analogy is off here too because a paintbrush is a lifeless object with no power and muscles behind it, unlike human fingers.

In the AOV, I mention momentum as essential to power and speed. On page 37, Mr. Cartmell echoes the same idea saying:

“When generating momentum (the key to power), tension serves as a kind of ‘brake’ which inhibits the smooth transference of momentum through the body, stifling power.”

Notice the word ‘smooth.’ This also echoes another key principle of the AOV – fluidity.

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